Copper Mountain is 75 mi west of downtown Denver or about 100 mi from Denver International Airport. It’s right along Interstate 70, so it’s easy to spot and there’s no smaller highway to contend with after you leave the freeway. If you map it out, the drive is only supposed to be about two hours, but with all the ski resorts in the area, the corridor is prone to heavy traffic. Commercial bus operators, for example, generally allow up to four or five hours depending on the season, day of the week, and time of day. It’s about halfway between Breckenridge and Vail, so if you have plans to visit some other resorts on your trip, it would be a convenient place to make your temporary home.
Denver International Airport (DIA) has the most flights, and probably the cheapest fares. It’s a hub for both United and Frontier, and also gets several flights a day from Delta and Southwest. Southwest is always a popular choice because it doesn’t charge for bags or any change fees. So, if a big snowstorm comes along and your schedule is flexible, you can adjust your itinerary to catch them freshies! Since Denver is well-prepared for winter weather, the airport is almost never snowed-in, so you can plan your trip there with confidence.
Eagle County Regional Airport is 55 mi west of Copper Mountain and an overall shorter and smoother drive than DIA. Be aware though, that many flights to this airport connect through DIA and usually cost more.
You can also consider Colorado Springs; it has six airlines and a direct service from several US hubs, with good deals on flights heading that way. Some Colorado Front Range locals actually prefer the drive from Colorado Springs; even though it’s not an interstate, it’s nowhere near as crowded so it’s often quicker and easier. All up the drive takes a bit over two and a half hours. On the other hand, since it’s not a freeway and there aren’t as many shuttle options, this might not be the best choice if you’re not experienced with winter driving.
Shuttles are fast and have convenient schedules. If you’re not comfortable driving through the mountains in winter – or if you’d rather nap through whatever traffic pops up – you can leave the driving to the pros!
We recommend the Summit Express, which also serves Breckenridge, Keystone, and the towns of Frisco, Silverthorne and Dillon. It costs $65 one-way per person, or $52 one-way per person for groups of three or more. They accept two large bags and one carry-on sized bag per person for free. Their modern vans include free car seats or booster seats if you’re bringing little ones along, and free Wi-Fi to pass the time on the ride. They depart Denver International Airport every hour or two from 9:00am to 10:30pm, and leave Copper Mountain for the airport starting at 5:30am.
Colorado Mountain Express also offers shuttle service for $65 per person each way, with a 20% discount for groups of three or more, and 50% discounts for kids! They also allow up to three free bags and have free Wi-Fi on board. They depart the airport every hour or so from 8:30am till 11:00pm, and start making runs back to the airport as early as 4:45am, depending on where you’re getting picked up.
Peak 1 Express offers service to Copper from $54 to $69 with a kids’ rate of $27 to $35. Like most of the services out there, they also serve the other nearby resorts and towns. They operate from the airport every 60-90 minutes from 8:00am to 11:15pm, and begin runs back to the airport starting 5:00am, depending on your pickup location (they’ll text you by 9:00pm the night before letting you know the exact time).
If you found a deal you couldn’t refuse on a flight into Colorado Springs and don’t want to rent a car, Rocky Mountain Ride is your only choice for a shuttle. They run one snow shuttle a day picking up from two locations in Colorado Springs, but you can call ahead to arrange a different location. Rates are $49 one way and $79 round trip. There are discounts for students, military, and groups of three or more.
Once you get to where you’re staying, the county-operated Summit Stage serves all the Summit County Resorts (Copper Mountain, Breckenridge, Keystone, and Arapahoe Basin) in addition to the towns of Dillon, Silverthorne, and Frisco – all at no charge! It can get crowded at peak times, but otherwise, it’s a comfortable ride. It’s especially convenient for getting to the resorts if you chose to stay in Frisco or Dillon/Silverthorne. If you stay at Copper Mountain, you’ll need to transfer once to get to Breck, and twice to get to Keystone or A-Basin. Between Frisco and Copper, there are buses almost every 30 minutes from as early as 6:30am to 1:30am. The Summit Stage also offers a link to Leadville, 20 mi away, where other activities like dogsled rides are available.
If you’re not deterred by winter weather or traffic, renting a car can be economical for large enough groups or families – and it gives you the flexibility to visit some of the other areas without being restricted by bus schedules and route systems (the Summit Stage, for example, won’t get you to Vail or Beaver Creek). Google Maps works fine if you’re coming from Denver, but you probably won’t need it – from Denver International Airport, get on I-70 heading west till you get to exit 195 for Colorado Highway 91; after the interchange, look for Copper Road, turn right, and there you are!
Colorado recognizes driver’s licenses from other countries for visits less than 90 days. You’ll also need some sort of insurance, but you can get that from the rental company if your normal policy doesn’t cover car rental. Most rental companies in the US require drivers to be over 25.
A few years ago, there was a 22 car pile up on I-70, and they found that 19 of the cars weren’t prepared for the conditions. So after that debacle, Colorado has recently updated its vehicle traction laws. In most cases, snow tires, tires with a mud/snow (M+S) designation on the sidewall, or four-wheel-drive/all-wheel-drive vehicles will suffice; Colorado will only require chains during severe winter storms as a final safety measure before closing the highway.
You can take your chances walking up without a reservation, but in order to make sure your rental car has the right traction, ski racks, and anything else you might need, we recommend booking in advance online. There are a dozen rental companies at Denver International Airport and 8 at Colorado Springs; all offering online booking.